The Netherlands confirmed 13 cases of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus on Sunday and Australia found two, the most recent countries to detect it in travelers arriving from southern Africa.
Nations around the world are imposing restrictions to curb the spread of the variant. Israel decided on Sunday to ban foreign nationals, the most radical measure yet.
Confirmed or suspected cases of the new variant have already emerged in several European countries, in Israel and Hong Kong, just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa. The “act first, ask later” approach reflected growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant almost two years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, disrupted lives and economies around the world.
While much remains to be learned about the new variant, researchers are concerned that it may be more resistant to the protection provided by vaccines and could mean that the pandemic will last longer than anticipated.
In the Netherlands, health authorities confirmed that so far 13 people who flew in from South Africa on Friday tested positive for omicron. They were among 61 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday after arriving on the last two flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport before a flight ban was put in place for southern African countries. They were immediately isolated, most in a nearby hotel, while the sequencing was taking place.
Australian authorities said two foreign travelers arriving in Sydney from Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the omicron variant. Now those arriving from nine African countries must self-quarantine in a hotel upon arrival.
Israel took steps to ban the entry of foreigners and require quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad.
This story was originally published on November 28, 2021 10:37 am.